When you’re browsing the web, the last thing you want is to run into an error message. If you’re a macOS user, one of the issues you might come across is: “Safari can’t establish a secure connection to the server” error.

While it may seem intimidating at first, this is a relatively common problem with a few simple solutions. All it usually takes is a little bit of troubleshooting before you’re able to effectively (and safely) access the site.

This post will explain what this Safari error message is and some of its common causes. Then we’ll provide you with six easy ways to fix the problem.

Let’s get started!

What’s the “Safari Can’t Establish a Secure Connection to the Server” Error?

Some of the best features of Mac devices are their built-in security settings. Apple has created an experience designed to keep you and your device safe, especially while browsing the web.

This is why its native browser, Safari, will sometimes prevent you from accessing a website that it doesn’t deem as secure. When this happens, you’ll likely see an error message that says, “Safari can’t establish a secure connection to the server.”

A screenshot of the “Safari can’t establish a secure connection to the server” error.
The “Safari can’t establish a secure connection to the server” error.

The specific wording of the error may vary. For example, as you can see in the image above, you might also come across a notification letting you know that “Safari Can’t Open the Page.”

In a nutshell, this error message means that the browser doesn’t trust the encrypted data on the site. Alternatively, Safari could not access and verify the information successfully. For example, this might happen when a site doesn’t have a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate properly configured.

Using SSL and Secure Shell Access (SSH) is critical for websites today. This is especially true when you have a site that handles sensitive customer data, such as a WooCommerce store.

However, if you know the site that you’re accessing is secure, the problem is likely with Safari. Many people experience this error message when accessing popular websites, such as Facebook, YouTube, and Google.

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What Causes “Safari Can’t Establish a Secure Connection to the Server” Error

There are many different reasons you might be seeing this error message. As we mentioned, the main explanation is that Safari can’t verify that the website you’re trying to access is secure enough to protect your data.

However, it’s essential to understand why it deems the site unsecured to know how to resolve it. Sometimes, you may not know what the culprit is until you try troubleshooting it.

With that said, there are a handful of common causes behind the “Safari can’t establish a secure connection” message. For example, the issue may be attributed to a third-party extension or add-on you have installed on your browser. It could be something as simple as having outdated cache data. However, it could be a more complicated problem, such as the Internet Protocol (IP) version you’re using.

How To Fix the “Safari Can’t Establish a Secure Connection to the Server” Error (6 Solutions)

Now that we understand more about the issue and its potential causes, it’s time to look at how to fix it. Below are six solutions you can use to resolve the “Safari can’t establish a secure connection” error.

1. Clear Your Browser Data

When you visit websites, Safari will store some of the information in the browser cache and cookies. If this data includes outdated details relating to the site’s SSL or encryption, it can be the reason you see the error message.

Therefore, one of the quickest and simplest methods you can use to resolve this error is to clear your browser cache. To do that in Safari, you can start by opening up the browser.

Next, click on Preferences > Privacy, then select Remove All Website Data.

Clearing the browser cache in Safari.
Clear the browser cache in Safari.

After it finishes loading (it may take a minute or two), you can decide which websites to clear the data from. For example, you can select them all or simply the one you’re having trouble accessing.

When done, click on the Done button at the bottom of the screen.

Next, to clear your entire browsing history, you can navigate to Safari > History > Clear History.

Clearing your entire browsing history in Safari.
Clear your entire browsing history.

When finished, try revisiting the site that was showing the error message. If it’s still there, you can move on to the next solution.

2. Check Your Device’s Date and Time

While it may seem odd, sometimes having the incorrect date and time on your Mac device can cause some issues within Safari. Therefore, it’s essential to ensure that yours is set to the correct time zone and date.

To get started, you can click on the Apple icon, then navigate to System Preferences > Date & Time.

Find the date and time option in preferences
Find the date and time option in the preferences.

From here, you can verify that you’re using the right date and time.

Verify you are using the right date and time.
Verify that you are using the correct date and time.

Under the Time Zone tab, you can also enable your device to sync to your current location automatically. When you’re done, you can exit the window and try re-accessing the site.

3. Change Your DNS Settings

If the error is still there, you might want to check out your Domain Name Server (DNS) settings. In a nutshell, your DNS acts like a phonebook that allows devices and sites to reach each other. Safari uses your DNS settings to connect to websites.

If there are issues with your DNS settings, it might be why you see the “Safari can’t establish a secure connection to the server” message. To see if this is the case (and resolve it), you can try changing your DNS addresses. For example, you could use Google’s Public DNS.

To get started, browse to Apple > System Preferences > Network.

Find the network option in preferences
Find the network option in the preferences.

From this window, select your connection, then click on the Advanced tab, followed by DNS. Next, click on the (+) icon next to IPv4 or IPv6 addresses.

Click on the DNS tab
Click on the DNS tab.

Then you can enter the new DNS IP addresses. For example, if you want to use Google’s Public DNS, you can enter “8.8.8.8” and “8.8.4.4”.

Enter the new DNS IP addresses.
Enter the new DNS IP addresses.

When you’re finished, click on the OK button. Recheck the website to see if this process removed the error message.

4. Uninstall or Disable Your Browser Extensions

As we mentioned earlier, an extension or add-on in your browser may be conflicting with Safari’s ability to connect to a site securely. Sometimes, this is common with anti-virus programs and security-related extensions.

Therefore, the next step is to try deactivating all your browser extensions. To do this, you can open Safari, then navigate to Preferences and click on the Extensions tab.

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Try disabling browser extensions
Disable or uninstall browser extensions

A list of your extensions will display in the left column. You can click on the checkmark next to the add-on name to disable it.

Once you’re done, try revisiting the site. If this solves the problem, you’ll need to pinpoint which extension was to blame. You can do this by systematically enabling each add-on and visiting the site after each time.

5. Disable IPv6

Internet Protocol (IP) is a set of rules that controls how data moves across the internet. IPv6 is a newer protocol version. However, some websites still use the older version, IPv4. If this is the case, it might be why you’re running into the “Safari can’t establish a secure connection” message.

Therefore, you can try disabling IPv6 on your network. To do so, navigate to System Preferences > Network once again, then click on your network connection, followed by the Advanced button.

Under the TCP/IP tab, click on the dropdown menu under Configure IPv6 and select Manually.

Configure IPv6 and select Manually
Configure IPv6 and select Manually

When you’re done, click on the OK button. This should resolve the issue if IPv6 were the problem. If not, there’s one last solution you can try.

6. Make Sure Keychain Trusts the Certificate

Earlier, we mentioned how Safari could sometimes present the connection error message if it cannot verify the validity of the site’s SSL certificate. If this is the case, you can bypass the issue by configuring settings in your macOS’s Keychain Access app.

Keychain Access is the application that stores your passwords, account details, and application certificates. It keeps your data secure and can control which sites are trusted by your device. As such, you can tell it to accept a site’s SSL certificate moving forward.

To do this, you can go to the website showing the error message, then click on the lock icon to the left of the address bar, followed by View/Show Certificate > Details.

Check if Keychain trusts the certificate in preferences
Check if Keychain trusts the certificate.

With the Details panel expanded, click Control + Space Bar. A Spotlight Search bar will appear in the top right-hand corner of your screen. Enter “Keychain” in the search field.

Next, on the left, click on System Roots. Search for the website’s certificate. Once you locate it, go to the Trust section. Then click on the dropdown menu next to When using this certificate section and select Always trust:

Select the Always Trust option under certificates
Select the “Always Trust” option

That’s it! You should now be able to access the site successfully.

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Summary

Trying to access a website only to be met with an error message can be highly frustrating. While Safari is simply trying to keep your data protected, sometimes it can get misconfigured. In this case, the browser may unnecessarily present a security notification such as “Safari can’t establish a secure connection.”

There are six methods you can use to fix this issue when it happens:

  1. Clear your browser data, including the cache and cookies.
  2. Check your device’s data and time.
  3. Change your DNS settings.
  4. Uninstall or disable your browser extensions and add-ons.
  5. Disable IPv6.
  6. Make sure Keychain trusts the SSL certificate.

Do you have any questions about fixing the Safari secure connection issue? Let us know in the comments section below!


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